Our Fault? Who, Us?

This is funny, in a depressing sort of way:

Twenty-four Republican senators, including presidential candidate Sen.
John McCain of Arizona, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection
Agency suggesting it waive, or restructure, rules that require a
five-fold increase in ethanol production over the next 15 years.

They make it sound like some weird EPA rule-making, but in fact the Senate, of which these folks are members, voted these provisions into law just 20 weeks ago.  Now, this is not a totally uncommon practice by lawmakers on the losing side of an issue to go to the administration to prevent enforcement.  And, in fact, I hope they are succesful.  But when the vote was taken 143 days ago, only 11 Republican Senators opposed the measure and one was a no-show for the vote (McCain).  So half of these 24 have buyer's remorse for legislation they voted for and on which the ink is barely dry. 

I have written on this enough, but ethanol makes no sense either as energy policy (it takes more energy to produce from corn than it provides) or as environmental policy (it does not reduce CO2 and causes ancillary environmental damage in terms of land and water use).  But Iowa is the first primary, and for some reason politicians just can't break the habit of pandering to Midwest farmers:

Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. analyst Kevin Book argued in a
recent note to clients that Congress will not "turn on the corn belt"
because of the significant number of votes held by ethanol-producing
states.

  • Kum Dollison

    (it takes more energy to produce from corn than it provides)

    I don't get it. You write a Science blog, "Climate Skeptic;" and, yet, you post unsubstantiated claims on a subject in which you have obviously done no serious research.

    I know you worked a couple of years in the Oil Industry; but, Dang.

    On the other hand, you operate a business that's dependent upon people travelling; and you ignore studies such as the one from Iowa State University that states that gasoline is selling for anywhere from $0.29 to $0.40 less a gallon as a result of the 550,000 Barrels of Ethanol being produced, daily.

    http://www.card.iastate.edu/publications/DBS/PDFFiles/08wp467.pdf

    Like I said, "I just don't get it."

  • Kum,
    Your numbers look just fine in isolation. But they don't refute his claims in the slightest. The study doesn't discount for the subsidies and other costs of the ethanol production, so it is not a reasonable comparison.

    By now, everyone that has looked at the issue realizes that corn ethanol is a cruel joke. A friend of mine making plenty of money off his Iowa corn crop thinks the program ought to be killed. For that matter, at current corn prices, it is not profitable to produce ethanol even with the subsidies! That should give you a clue - the market is sending signals about what it really costs to produce that ethanol.

  • EconStudent

    I am by no means an expert on the matter, but I would like to see the relationship between that lowering in gasoline prices and the amount of money from my taxes that are sent to subsidize ethanol and the increased amount I am paying for food. If it wasn't subsidized, and my food prices were lower and my taxes were lower, the slight increase in gasoline prices (in the Rocky Mountain Region) might be more utility for me. Just a thought, though I don't have numbers at this time to say it is or isn't true.

  • Amen, John Moore!

    Even worse, it's simply nothing other than STUPID to burn your food to power your car.

    Ethanol never has and never shall make any sense whatsoever environmentally, economically, or to anyone with a brain. The evidence against it is overwhelming and there's no need to restate it here, as anyone who wants to can very easily find out the truth that I just elucidated.